« Beams of Sunshine | Main | New Cadenhead Creations Arrives »

Does Anyone Still Use Yelp?

I have to admit that I still use Yelp to help find the address of a restaurant, or to see how popular a bar might be, but I can't say that I actually read the reviews anymore. If there's one thing I've learned about the internet and the incessant commenting it's that mild-mannered people often don't add their two cents. The most-outspoken reviewers either think a restaurant is the best place in the history of the world, or they're out for blood with a serious axe to grind. I've had some pretty negative experiences lately with other online retailers, but nothing that would make me rush to my laptop, log on to a consumer review site, and unleash the fury within these fingers. On the flip side, the positive experiences I've accrued will merely lead to more of my business, not necessarily a five-star review.

If you check out the last few reviews for K&L Redwood City on Yelp they're either one star or five stars. Either we're the best possible liquor store, or we're the worst possible liquor store. Which one is it? Obviously you can read through the reviews and get a sense of what we're all about, but is anyone making a decision to shop with us based on these totally polarized experiences? I don't think so. There are so many factors that go into making a great experience -- both with whiskey and with the whiskey retail transaction. If you happen to catch me with your whisky question you're going to get more than you bargained for. Ask Jim Barr about whiskey, however, and he'll look at you in a state of sheer confusion. On the other hand, if you ask Jim Barr about California Chardonnay you'll get some expertise from one of this state's true wine veterans. One's experience at K&L is totally dependent on a number of different factors. How busy were we? Who was working that day? What did you need? What did we actually have?

Reviewing a business on Yelp after one visit is like tasting one sip of whisky and then rushing to a final conclusion -- it's a knee-jerk reaction to a rigid emotional response. More importantly, such a review is of no help to the consumer whatsoever. The guy at the hamburger place was a jerk? Maybe that's because the reviewer was a total prick in the first place, or maybe the server had a bad day. Maybe the reviewer was a former employee looking to get revenge. A glowing five star review? Maybe it's the boss's daughter, or another family member posing as a customer. Who knows? The squeaky wheel gets the grease, however. In the end, neither the glowing five star review, nor the terrible one star review is indicative of what you'll find on a day-to-day basis at K&L. Sometimes we're exhausted and out of gas. Other times we're exuberant and full of pride. We're people just like anyone else.

To summarize that with a simple five star system seems silly to me. But then again, whisky ratings are silly to me too.

-David Driscoll